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Congress demands answers from Kellogg after tainted-packaging recall

By Rory Harrington , 04-Aug-2010

Kellogg Company has come under pressure from the US Congress to disclose more information about the “hazardous” packaging chemical that led to the recall of million of boxes of cereal in June.

The influential Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations declared it had launched an investigation into the alert that saw 28m packets of Corn Pops, Honey Smacks, Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks cereals pulled from shelves after complaints of off-tastes and smells from the food.

In a letter sent to Kellogg CEO David MacKay on 2 August, Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Bart Stupak also cited a US media report that claimed Kellogg had “destroyed tainting packaging before announcing the recall”. The company told FoodProductionDaily.com that this was not true, as it vowed to co-operate with Congressional body.

Concern

The committee said it would focus its probe on the chemical 2-methylnaphthalene which Kellogg eventually identified as the substance responsible for the tainting of the food that sickened around 20 people. The company has repeatedly stressed that the chemical used in the manufacture of a common wax –like coating in its packing liners is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

But the lawmakers raised their own concerns about the substance, saying: “At least one study has shown that 2-methylnaphthalene may cause lung injuries in adults. There are no studies indicating whether children are more susceptible to this chemical.”

The joint chairmen demanded that the company brief the group on their activities to “identify, address and prevent hazardous chemicals, such as 2-methylnaphthalene” from entering food products.

Full disclosure demanded

Kellogg’s general food safety processes are also set to be put under the microscope after the committee requested it provide a raft of documentation on its policies and procedures designed to ensure that its cereal and other food products do not pose a risk to human health. It further called for information on substances “about which the company does not possess adequate information to assess whether the chemicals may be hazardous to human health”.

The food firm was further asked to send all documents and studies it had commissioned on the health risks posed by 2-methylnaphthalene, as well as all information relating to levels of the chemical in the packaging involved in the recall. Kellogg failed to supply this detailed information to FoodProductionDaily.com in the aftermath of the alert despite repeated requests to do so.

The company has been asked to hand over all the information by 16 August.

Acted responsibly

Responding to the letter, company spokeswoman Kris Charles told FoodProductionDaily.com: “Kellogg Company acted swiftly and responsibly to protect our consumers when we executed the voluntary recall of select cereal packages on June 25.”

She added: “It’s important to correct the record that we did not destroy packaging prior to contacting the FDA and conducting the voluntary recall. We will work closely with Chairmen Waxman and Stupak to provide the committee with the information that they have requested."

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